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BLOC WEEKEND SHUT DOWN AMIDST OVER-CROWDING
While the festival's official social media channels were still happily bigging up events happening on stage, reports started to emerge on Friday evening of large queues at the all-nighter event, not only to get into the festival, but also to get into any of the stage areas, all of which were enclosed.
This meant that those who arrived any later than late afternoon were faced with a two-hour queue to get into the event, and then another one-hour queue to get into any of the tents. And once inside a performance space, punters were nervous of leaving, because doing so would require joining another one-hour queue.
With ever more people arriving on site (gates were due to stay open until 2am), fears seemingly arose that over-crowding could result in a dangerous incident, and at about 12.30am a decision was made by organisers to shut down the festival, even though headliner Snoop Dogg was yet to go on stage, and the event was due to run to 6am. It was later announced that the second day of the event was also cancelled.
The Metropolitan Police, who had seemingly recommended the shut down, were soon very much in presence across the Pleasure Gardens site as the festival was cleared. Despite understandable anger amongst festival-goers, the shut down seems to have gone relatively smoothly, with most bystanders commending both police and crowd members for their actions.
Quite what caused the over-crowding is not yet clear. But, with the London Pleasure Gardens basically washing its hands of the incident, and Bloc Weekend yet to fully comment, except to say an investigation is ongoing, there has been much speculation by attendees as to what caused the problems.
Some reckon that there was a problem with the scanning of tickets, which firstly caused delays, and then - because stewards started letting anyone with a print-out of a ticket in, and because multiple copies of any one ticket can be printed out - may have led to more people being allowed on site than planned. Some have also said online that they bought Friday-only tickets, but on arrival, amidst confusion at the gate, they were given weekend wristbands.
Others reckon that there simply wasn't room for the 15,000 people who had been sold tickets at the Pleasure Gardens complex. Possibly because, only open a week, the site wasn't as large as expected (or possibly isn't quite finished). Or possibly because the complex was badly used; a number of festival-goers said that there were too many bottlenecks, that poor signage meant some alternative routes around the site weren't used, and that large chunks of the Gardens were empty, while other areas were crammed.
It may also be that organisers hoped that a sizable portion of its audience would be happy to sit outside the performance tents, allowing the crowds to be more widely distributed, a mistake given that the site arguably doesn't lend itself to such milling around (certainly not in the way a holiday camp does). And according to Dummy, a police spokesman said that the weather had been a factor in recommending a shut down, which would link into that theory - ie if expected showers arrived, circumstances would worsen because the festival was unable to accommodate everyone undercover.
On Saturday morning, organisers of the Bloc Weekend posted on their website: "By now everyone will have heard that Bloc 2012 was closed due to crowd safety concerns. We are all absolutely devastated that this happened, but the safety of everyone on site was paramount. Given the situation on the ground, we feel that it was the right decision to end the show early. Bloc will not open on Saturday 7th July so please don't come to the site".
Yesterday a new statement was posted, that reads: "We are currently gathering information about Friday night's events. We are also working to ensure that everyone will be refunded for their tickets. Please bear with us while we do this. Thanks to all of you, as well as the many artists and crew who travelled across the world to come to Bloc - we are so sorry that we couldn't deliver the experience we had planned".
It continued: "And thanks so much to the event control, security, stewards, police and public who worked together to ensure that no one came to harm during the peaceful evacuation. This is far and away the most important result of the night. For those of you who are frustrated and angry - we hear you. For those sending love and support - thank you".
Whether the Bloc Weekend company will be able to afford to refund all ticket buyers, given all the costs it will have incurred by cancelling the event when already up and running, remains to seen, and may depend on when and how monies are paid over by ticketing provider CrowdSurge. As for the future of the event, that also hangs in the balance, which is possibly a shame for a boutique festival brand that, until this weekend, had a generally good reputation.
The shutdown is also embarrassing for the operators of the London Pleasure Gardens, the new open-air venue set up an industrial wasteland by the people behind Glastonbury's Shangri-La area. Opening just in time for the Olympics, with support from both Newham Council and London mayor Boris Johnson, the new quirky site is set to host a wide range of cultural events both this summer and over the next three years.
The next big event due to take place there is the Africa Stage of the pre-Olympics River Of Music event, on 21 and 22 Jul. LPG managers insist this weekend's overcrowding problems will not affect that show, because it will use a totally different set up at the complex.
While the specific details of what caused the problems at this weekend's Bloc will presumably emerge in due course, one lesson for the wider festival sector may come from one of the most common complaints from those at the event: poor communication, about both the queuing situation and subsequently the shutdown, and how those evacuated festival-goers stranded in London's Eastern docklands, after the last DLR had left for the night, might go about getting back into Central London.
When things go wrong these days, customers turn to official Twitter and Facebook feeds, and if they are just telling people how great Amon Tobin's set is, then unhappy festival-goers are not going to be placated. Similar complaints were made about the Isle Of Wight Festival last month, when heavy rainfall caused problems with onsite car parking, resulting in hundreds of cars backing up onto local roads, and forcing some ticket-buyers to spend their first night at the event offsite in their vehicles.
Although the IOW Festival's problems were different and more isolated than those that occurred at Bloc, many complained that the event's official communication channels gave no information or advice for those caught in traffic jams. Said stranded festival-goers then took to social media to complain, which was picked up by local and then national media, meaning most coverage of the event centred on the traffic issues.
Many of those who went to the IOW event by public transport felt media coverage of the festival - "wash-out, disaster" etc - was vastly out of proportion, though such negative press could have been avoided had a decent communications plan been in place. Widespread criticism online of Bloc organisers may also have been more forgiving had there been better communications. Which is possibly food for thought for promoters everywhere - perhaps good use of social media is about more than just tweeting photos of the good times.
VIVENDI CHAIRMAN STEPS IN TO HELP UNIVERSAL'S EMI BID
The paper says that Jean-René Fourtou has indicated to European officials that his company is now willing to offer concessions to tackle various concerns expressed by regulators about the deal, while insisting that the Paris-based conglom is better placed than anyone to protect some of Europe's most prized musical catalogues, such as those created by The Beatles and French singer-songwriter Charles Aznavour, with a long-term vision to develop its cultural assets, rather than plans for quick-win exploitation.
Fourtou has seemingly become more directly involved in Universal's bid to buy the EMI record company since the sudden departure of Vivendi CEO Jean-Bernard Levy last month, and his involvement has changed the tone of negotiations between the entertainment major and European Commission regulators, insiders say.
The Vivendi chief's involvement may suggest that Universal - initially bullish that it could win approval for its deal without having to make concessions - is now starting to sense that it faces a bigger challenge than it originally anticipated, in Europe at least.
As previously reported, the major responded to the EC's 'statement of objections' to the deal last week, and will now have a number of meetings with officials to discuss the issues, where Universal will dispute some of the concerns expressed by its rivals, while also looking to placate regulators and opponents. It is thought that concessions will be offered later this month too.
Although Fourtou's involvement might indicate concern at Vivendi HQ about the EMI bid - especially given Universal's commitment to current EMI owners Citigroup to make good any losses the bank makes should the deal fall through and the bankers have to sell to another buyer for a lesser price - some Universal insiders say it actually shows the Chairman's genuine commitment to the music firm.
As previously reported, there had been rumours that Vivendi - which is facing issues in its tel co business - might split into two companies, or sell off some of its entertainment assets. And indeed Vivendi is looking to reduce its stake in the Activision gaming company. But both Universal's management and Fourtou have insisted that Vivendi remains committed to its music business.
In related news, Vivendi has also denied that a possible bid to buy Universal by Edgar Bronfman Jr was discussed when Fourtou met the former Warner CEO, who created the Universal Music Group in the 1990s, about a month ago.
LAMB OF GOD ISSUE STATEMENT OVER CZECH ARREST
The fan, named as Daniel N, fell off the stage at a Lamb Of God show in 2010, seemingly after being pushed, and incurred head injuries that ultimately led to his death. Blythe is accused of pushing the fan, and now faces charges of manslaughter.
As previously reported, the band's manager, Larry Mazer, last week told Rolling Stone that the case against Blythe was "full of holes", adding that the fan had invaded the stage three times before his fall, and that a video of the gig shows it was not the frontman who pushed him. Nevertheless, Blythe remains if jail, with the prosecution fighting his bid for bail fearing the rocker will flee the country.
The new statement from the band reads: "First of all, thanks to everyone who has reached out in support of Randy and each of us in this terrible situation. It's noted and very much appreciated. We have been keeping our heads down and not speaking out due to the fluid nature of the situation and the constantly changing information that even we receive daily. Within an hour things can do endless 180s. It's maddening to try and make heads or tails".
A Facebook page has been set up for any fans wishing to donate to Blythe's legal fund as he works to fight the charges against him in the Czech Republic, which is accessible here.
DAPPY APOLOGISES FOR SCHOOL TEACHER MURDERER TRIBUTE
In what was front page news at the time, Lawrence had been attempting to stop a gang, led by Chindamo, from attacking a thirteen year old pupil of the school when he was killed. Chindamo was jailed for life in 1996, but eventually released in 2010. However, he was later returned to prison for breaching the terms of his parole.
Dappy's new video, debuted on the SB.TV YouTube channel last week, opened with the words "Free Leo Chindamo". But it was subsequently removed, and Dappy issued a statement apologised for the inclusion of the line.
In a statement, the former N-Dubz star said: "I knew [Chindamo's] brother from when I was young. In no way did I intend to cause upset and certainly didn't know about his past. My heart goes out to Mr Lawrence's family. I know too well the pain of losing a loved one, sincerely Dappy".
NINE INJURED IN STABBINGS AT SWEDISH HOUSE MAFIA CONCERT
According to Ireland's Independent newspaper, a man is due in court today in relation to the stabbings at the gig, which left nine people injured, two seriously. Police are also hunting down two other people who are suspected of involvement in the attacks, and have asked anyone who witnessed the incidents to come forward, especially any gig-goers who may have been injured, but not significantly enough to seek immediate first aid.
Questions have already been asked about security at the MCD-promoted show, but the live company's MD Denis Desmond insists his firm did all it could do to ensure the safety of audience members. He told the paper: "Ticket holders entering the site were subject to a search permissible by law. Every precaution, as far as possible, was taken to ensure the safety and security of the audience at all times. Despite our best efforts ... there is only so much one can do to combat anti-social behaviour".
In a separate incident, a man in his early 20s died at the event of a suspected drugs overdose.
CRO-MAGS GIG CANCELLED AFTER FORMER MEMBER ATTACKS BAND WITH KNIFE
Relations between the two founder members of Cro-Mags, John Joseph and Harley Flanagan, have been acrimonious for a long time. Joseph left the original incarnation of the influential hardcore outfit in the late 80s, and Flanagan led the group through to its 1993 conclusion, and was also involved in a late 1990s reunion which led to the 2000 album 'Revenge'.
But then in 2008 Joseph began performing again under the Cro-Mags banner without Flanagan. And tensions between the two men over the use of the band's name seemingly came to a head on Saturday night ahead of a gig at the CBGB festival, when an angry Flanagan went on the rampage after storming into the group's dressing room.
Two of Joseph's more recent collaborators in Cro-Mags, William Berario and Michael Couls, took the brunt of the attack, both suffering knife wounds, and Berario also being bitten by his band's co-founder. Harley was subsequently brought down by security at New York's Webster Hall, and seemingly broke his leg in the altercation that followed.
The New York Post reports that Berario, Couls and Flanagan were all subsequently taken to New York's Bellevue Hospital, while Joseph explained to fans at the gig that the show was cancelled and that "you can all thank Harley Flanagan for ruining the night for everyone".
Flanagan was charged with two counts of second degree assault and a weapons charge. Meanwhile a spokesman for the CBGB Festival told reporters: "We are saddened to learn about the events that occurred last night at Webster Hall. Our primary concern is always the safety and experience of New Yorkers, music fans and the general public. Naturally we will fully cooperate with law enforcement while hoping for the speedy recovery of those injured".
U2 BASSIST'S PA GETS SEVEN YEARS FOR EMBEZZLEMENT
As previously reported, Carol Hawkins, who had worked for Clayton for seventeen years, embezzled 2.8 million euros once she was given access to the U2 man's bank accounts, using the cash to buy holidays, designer clothes, cars and education for her children, and no less than 22 horses. The theft came to light after Clayton discovered the PA had booked 15,000 euros of personal flights to London and the States on his account.
Hawkins maintained her innocence throughout the trial which, Judge Patrick McCartan said, had an impact on the sentencing, convincing him a sizable custodial sentence was required.
According to the BBC, he told the court: "Nothing, frankly, could explain away the scale of this dishonesty other than the greed in pursuit of a lavish lifestyle that was no responsibility of Mr Clayton's. If given an opportunity to commit a similar crime in the future, I am not entirely confident the defendant would resist. Whether she was a fool or clever person really matters very little".
Clayton did not attend the sentencing, but subsequently told reporters that he was pleased with the outcome, and thanked his legal team.
BIEBER FILES HARASSMENT COMPLAINT AFTER GETTING SPEEDING TICKET IN PAPARAZZO CHASE
The Biebster's manager Scooter Braun confirmed over the weekend that the pop star had got a ticket for going 80mph on the 101 Freeway in LA on Friday, though there were reports he had reached 100mph in his Fisker Karma sports car, and that no less than ten other motorists had reported the car's speed to police before Bieber was flagged down by a traffic cop.
One LA City Councilman, Dennis Zine, who previously worked for the LAPD's traffic unit, and who witnessed the chase, confirmed a photographer was pursuing the star, though said that was no excuse for the way Bieber was driving. He told TMZ: "Bieber was driving like a maniac. He was weaving in and out of traffic. There was hardly any space between cars as he weaved from lane to lane. If I was on patrol, I would have arrested him for reckless driving".
Bieber's people have now filed a complaint against the photographer who was tailing him during the high speed drive, and the California Highway Patrol is investigating the matter.
It's not the first time a run-in with a photographer has got Bieber in trouble with the law. LA County prosecutors are currently considering whether any charges should be filed after the pop star pushed over another pesky pap in the car park of a Californian shopping mall back in May.
FRIENDLY FIRES NEW MATERIAL VERY DIFFERENT
The band's Ed Macfarlane told the Sunday Mirror: "We've been working on eight minute long tracks that don't sound anything like what we do now. The music is what it's all about for us, so if [sticking with this material] means we [have to] release under a different name, then that's fine".
The band previously told NME that they wouldn't release a third album until they had created new material that was "distinct and valid". Though perhaps they weren't initially thinking of making new songs quite so "distinct".
SQUAREPUSHER ANNOUNCES HEADLINE LONDON SHOW
ULTRA POLAND CANCELLED
The cancellation has seemingly been caused by contractual issues between the Ultra Music Festival company in the US and the Polish promoters who were due to produce the Warsaw event, and who seemingly admitted to Ultra HQ last week that it was unable to meet all the terms of the two firm's previous agreement regards the staging of the festival.
A statement from UMF said: "It is with our deepest regret that UMF must notify our loyal fans that UMF Poland, scheduled for July 13 and 14 in Warsaw, has been cancelled. The local promoter, SRO Festivals, and some of its affiliates, confirmed that they would be unable to meet and perform certain vital contractual obligations essential to successfully producing the UMF Poland event".
It continued: "UMF has since terminated our relationship with SRO as a result of these unforeseen and ill-fated developments. Delivering UMF's signature production and ultimate fan experience are components upon which UMF is never prepared to compromise".
It's not currently clear how many tickets had been sold for the event, and therefore how many people have been affected by the late in the day cancellation.
MFEST CANCELLED BECAUSE OF WEATHER CONCERNS
MFEST was due to take place at Harewood House near Leeds and would have featured sets from the likes of Bob Geldof, Texas and Matt Cardle. But organisers announced late last week that the event had been canned after the Met Office issued an amber warning of heavy rain in the region, and after taking advice from Leeds City Council.
Festival organisers said in a statement: "It is with our deepest regret that due to the adverse weather conditions leading up to this event, in conjunction with the extreme weather warning as issued by the Met Office for the weekend, we were left with no other decision than to abandon this weekend's MFEST".
MUSIC FESTIVALS PLC ADMIT TICKET SALES STILL LOW
Music Festivals plc had previously warned investors that ticket sales this year were lower than anticipated back in May. Confirming the situation hadn't improved, last week's shareholder statement said: "The already highly competitive festival market has also been significantly impacted by continued weak economies in the UK and Spain (where the Group generates a significant amount of its income), current unavailability of strong revenue generating acts and adverse UK weather resulting in negative media commentary on recent festivals".
Although Music Festivals plc resisted the temptation to roll out the standard excuse for disappointing ticket sales in the 2012 festival season - the big bad Olympics - Power did recently criticise the BBC for moving Radio 1's annual free-entry music event, the Big Weekend, into London to pre-empt this summer's big celebration of sporting achievement and offensive corporate sponsorship.
Power, and others, have argued that by staging the Hackney Weekend, the Corporation had entered a crowded market place, where the UK live music sector already offers a plethora of youth-orientated events, and then exploited its media platforms and unique funding structure to unfairly compete with commercial players.
INDIO COUNCILLOR DROPS PLANS FOR FESTIVALS TAX AFTER COACHELLA THREATENS EXIT
As previously reported, a meeting of the Indio council last month refused to consider Sam Torres' proposal to add a 5-10% tax on tickets for events with 2500+ capacities, but the council man said he would continue to push for the new tax in the autumn.
That led to the boss of Goldenvoice, the AEG Live subsidiary that promoters Coachella, to threaten to cancel the popular festival in 2014, before relocating to a new site outside of Indio in 2015.
Some reckoned Goldenvoice President Paul Tollett was bluffing, given the company recently bought some of the land used by the Coachella festival to reduce infrastructure costs, but if it was a bluff, it worked.
Late last week Torres said he was dropping his tax proposals, which Tollet said would have required an extra $36 to be added to every ticket for the Coachella event, and which would also have affected sister festival Stagecoach.
According to NBC, Torres said in a statement: "I cannot in good conscience allow this [the festival leaving Indio altogether] to happen no matter how dire the city's circumstance. My sincere hope is that we can now move past this episode and I personally look forward to working to enhance relationships".
VEVO SEEKING NEW INVESTMENT
It is thought that the bank will initially speak to big US-based tech firms like Facebook, Yahoo, Google and Amazon about taking a stake in the music video firm. There has been talk of a flotation for VEVO in the past, though an IPO - while not out of the question long term - seems increasingly unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future, mainly because the company will likely want to be operating in many more territories before going that route.
The new investment round comes as VEVO in the US announced new mobile functionality, allowing users to access videos on the platform via their web browser, rather than having to download a special app first.
BOYLE NEIGHBOURS COMPLAIN TO COUNCIL OVER HER SINGING
The tab quotes neighbour Teresa Miller as saying: "It is so loud you can't hear the telly. It's unbearable. It'll be on first thing in the morning or late at night and it's absolutely blaring. She'll put one song on repeat and it goes on for hours. I don't know if she's got a karaoke machine or what but it's so loud".
Boyle actually used some of her new found fortune to buy a new bigger house elsewhere in the Scottish town, but has reportedly since moved back in to her original home, and that is when the loud singing became a problem.
The local council refused to comment on the alleged complaint, and a spokesman for Boyle said they had heard nothing from the local authority, though a source told the paper that the singer has had rows with her neighbours in the past, and that the 'BGT' star has called the police on several occasions fearing the arguments might get violent.